From June 5 to June 7, the next wave of talent will be infused into the systems of MLB teams as a result of the 2014 MLB Draft.
Round 1 will take place on June 5. That round is when we'll see the best talent go off the board, and it's that talent that could find its way to the big leagues in a relatively short amount of time.
Of course, a player's development has much to do with the team that drafts him. Some teams, like the St. Louis Cardinals, are simply incredible at developing young players. Others struggle in that regard.
Thursday's selections will alter the franchises involved in Round 1. Here are some last-minute predictions as to how that round will play out.
1. Houston Astros: Brady Aiken, LHP
Brady Aiken makes a ton of sense for the Houston Astros organization. With young bats in the lineup like George Springer and Jon Singleton, all the Astros need is more young pitching to get back to respectability.
Aiken would take a few years to develop given the fact that he's coming out of high school, but Houston should be willing to be patient with him. The left-hander throws hard and boasts a plus curveball and an above-average changeup.
2. Miami Marlins: Carlos Rodon, LHP
If Aiken doesn't go first, then Carlos Rodon will. The Miami Marlins will be happy to grab either lefty, but Rodon will end up being their guy at No. 2.
Sports Illustrated listed him as their choice for No. 1 in the draft, via Josh Fendrick:
Regardless, the Marlins will be happy to get a guy who can touch 97 on the gun with good command of his pitches.
3. Chicago White Sox: Tyler Kolek, RHP
Tyler Kolek is unlike any pitching prospect that we've seen in recent years. The right-hander is 6'5", 230 pounds and can touch triple digits on the gun consistently. That type of frame is MLB-ready, and it might not be long before he sniffs the bigs.
4. Chicago Cubs: Michael Conforto, OF
The Chicago Cubs can do a lot at No. 4, but the best bet for them would be to go after Michael Conforto. He's on their radar, according to Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune:
Other players linked to the Cubs are California high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, Florida high school shortstop Nick Gordon and Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto. Several Cubs officials watched Conforto play in two tournaments in Arizona in February.
It would be interesting to see Conforto go ahead of Alex Jackson or Nick Gordon, but the Cubs have clearly done their scouting on the young outfielder.
5. Minnesota Twins: Alex Jackson, C/OF
The Minnesota Twins will be ecstatic if Jackson falls to No. 5.
Considered one of the best power bats in the class, Jackson has the power to hit it out just about anywhere. Teams will need to make a tough decision with him, however. Strong-hitting catchers are hard to come by, but keeping him behind the dish could stunt his growth.
In all likelihood, the team that drafts Jackson will convert him into a full-time corner outfielder.
6. Seattle Mariners: Nick Gordon, SS
Gordon is a potential five-tool player. While a smaller player, the shortstop generates decent power because of his quick bat. That's not what he's known for, however, as his skills as a plus defender with blazing speed make him an attractive option in the early portion of Round 1.
7. Philadelphia Phillies: Sean Newcomb, LHP
It doesn't look like lefty Sean Newcomb tries very hard on the mound. He has a lazy, smooth delivery that can lull batters to sleep. Hitters need to stay on their game, though, because this lazy delivery produces a fastball in the mid-90s. Newcomb also has a wipeout slider that is devastating against righties.
8. Colorado Rockies: Aaron Nola, RHP
When I think of Aaron Nola, I think of Michael Wacha.
Nola possesses a fastball in the low 90s, a plus changeup and a slider—all of which he can control. He can paint the corners with his fastball and just miss off the corners with his off-speed pitches. This creates a ton of swings-and-misses and weak contact.
He has the potential to fly through any system. For a pitching-needy team like the Colorado Rockies, we could see Nola as early as next year.
9. Toronto Blue Jays: Touki Toussaint, RHP
Touki Toussaint needs to work on repeating his delivery in order to ensure his long-term health and success, but this kid has the arsenal to succeed in the bigs. He has a fastball that touches the upper 90s and a curveball that makes hitters take a seat. He'll need to develop a third pitch if he wants to be a starter, but he can get by as a reliever with what he throws now.
10. New York Mets: Kyle Freeland, LHP
Kyle Freeland is a young pitcher who is comfortable with pitching to contact. He throws in the low 90s with good movement—even on his fastball—because of a three-quarter arm slot. The late movement he gets on his fastball results in a ton of ground balls.
His arm slot also makes his slider effective, as he can get extra life and late dip on the pitch because of where it is being released.
11. Toronto Blue Jays: Grant Holmes, RHP
The Toronto Blue Jays own this pick because of their failure to sign last year's No. 11 selection, Phil Bickford. They'll try again this year on another pitcher, right-hander Grant Holmes.
Holmes is a high schooler known for his hammer curveball, which can get out both righties and lefties.
12. Milwaukee Brewers: Max Pentecost, C
A defense-first catcher, Max Pentecost will use his skills behind the dish to progress through the minors. His bat is average at best, and he'll likely become someone who won't hurt his team at the plate. That said, he's best suited for the bottom of the order.
He's the type of player who's perfect for a Milwaukee Brewers farm system that desperately needs projectable talent.
13. San Diego Padres: Trea Turner, SS
Trea Turner's long swing sometimes prevents him from being quick enough to make solid contact on inside pitches, but his skills at shortstop make him a valuable commodity in this draft. His issues at the plate can be coached and corrected at the next level.
It's difficult to teach defense, though. Turner has that aspect of the game covered.
14. San Francisco Giants: Sean Reid-Foley, RHP
It's rare to see a high schooler that can both dial up the radar gun and control his pitches at the same time, but that's what Sean Reid-Foley has shown he can do. He has an easy delivery that he repeats with each pitch and can throw strikes with all of his pitches.
15. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim: Kyle Schwarber, 1B
Looking for the most raw power in this class? Look no further than Kyle Schwarber.
The first baseman can hit the ball a long, long way. He needs to improve on making contact more consistently, as there are a few holes in his swing. That said, it's hard to deny his power.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks: Bradley Zimmer,
Despite being mock-drafted to the Arizona Diamondbacks at No. 16, Bradley Zimmer is a potential five-tooler because of his skills at the plate and in center field. On defense, Zimmer has a strong arm and quick instincts. His speed also helps him cover a lot of ground.
At the plate, he makes good contact and has projectable power. For a team that has struggled to develop quality prospects in the past, Zimmer is a smart pick.
17. Kansas City Royals: Monte Harrison, OF
Monte Harrison is the best overall athlete in the class. Aside from baseball, Harrison has committed to play wide receiver at Nebraska. He also has a background in basketball. Here's Harrison throwing it down with ease in a local Slam Dunk contest:
He won that contest, by the way.
Harrison is a very speedy outfielder who is smooth on the field. A selection high enough in Round 1 should be enough to pry him away from Nebraska.
18. Washington Nationals: Jeff Hoffman, RHP
The Washington Nationals aren't afraid to take an injured pitcher in Round 1. In 2012, they selected Lucas Giolito, a pitcher who needed Tommy John surgery immediately after being selected.
Jeff Hoffman underwent TJ surgery in May and won't be available to start his career in the pros for about a year. That said, he was considered a high-end Round 1 pick prior to the injury.
19. Cincinnati Reds: Casey Gillaspie, 1B
Casey Gillaspie, brother of White Sox infielder Conor Gillaspie, is a star at Wichita State. He was even named an All-American this year:
The switch-hitter has more power from the left side than he does from the right, but he can hit it out from either side. He also has fantastic plate discipline, evidenced by his .520 on-base percentage this past season for the Shockers.
20. Tampa Bay Rays: Derek Hill, OF
Derek Hill is an elite defender in center field in large part because of his speed. He projects as one of the top stolen base threats in this class. His instincts in the field also help him take smooth, crisp routes to the baseball.
Hill doesn't have much power at the plate, and I like to think of him as a poor man's Billy Hamilton. They have the same exact skills, except nobody in the game is as fast as Hamilton.
21. Cleveland Indians: Michael Chavis, 3B
Michael Chavis is an excellent defender at the hot corner. He takes a great first step toward the ball and has a very good arm to nab speedy baserunners. His bat is good but needs a little work, and that's why he likely won't go higher in Round 1.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers: Nick Burdi, RHP
Nick Burdi projects as a reliever in the bigs, and the Los Angeles Dodgers should be just fine with that. The right-hander can touch over 100 mph while also throwing a wipeout slider. Without a third pitch, Burdi won't survive as a starter.
23. Detroit Tigers: Spencer Adams, RHP
Spencer Adams knows how to work the strike zone. He pounds it early with his low-90s fastball before mixing in changeups and sliders to induce weak contact from the batter.
The Detroit Tigers have one of the best rotations in the bigs, and they can afford to give Adams the time necessary to progress at his own pace.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates: Derek Fisher, OF
Derek Fisher is a solid all-around player. He's a good outfielder who won't hurt a team defensively. He also has a solid swing from the right side that sprays liners all over the field.
Such a swing could develop power in the future as Fisher gets stronger.
25. Oakland Athletics: Luis Ortiz, RHP
Luis Ortiz's bread and butter is his slider. He uses his low-90s fastball to set up the pitch. It moves away from righties and dives straight at the back foot of lefties. The late break makes it very difficult to recognize out of his land, let alone hit.
26. Boston Red Sox: Erick Fedde, RHP
Erick Fedde's draft stock has sunk after he underwent season-ending Tommy John surgery. Assuming he comes back healthy, this pick will be a steal for the Boston Red Sox.
He has the ability to throw all of his pitches for strikes. While none of his pitches stands out above the rest, they are all quality offerings. This makes him a candidate to be a No. 3 starter in the bigs.
27. St. Louis Cardinals: Luke Weaver, RHP
Luke Weaver should jump for joy if selected by the Cardinals. All St. Louis does is churn out quality young pitching—quickly.
Weaver lives off his fastball and changeup. He works batters with both pitches before inducing weak contact. He doesn't have a projectable third pitch, however, so he should be considered a reliever until he develops one.
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